Great Baraboo Brewing Co. was founded on suds, but there’s plenty else to like
Yes, the beer is very good. But Great Baraboo Brewing Co. also offers an expansive menu with something for everyone. And yes, the food is very good, too.
Those with long memories might recall a grittier, late-1980s incarnation called Fazzalari’s on the corner of Moravian and Utica roads in Clinton Township. It was Macomb County’s answer to “new wave” clubs that had wannabe hipsters flocking to Hamtramck haunts like Lili’s and Paychecks.
Fazzalari’s was nothing special. Just cheap drinks and loud music. But in 1993, the Kourelis family — owners of the longstanding Shores Inn in St. Clair Shores — bought it, then tore it down.
In its place, they jumped on the craft beer bandwagon, establishing the Great Baraboo Brewing Co. in 1995. According to owner Mary Kourelis Bricolas, it was Macomb County’s first brewpub.
Some 21 years later, it’s a thriving lunch and dinner spot. And in some ways, it still has a sort ’80s vibe, with appetizer throwbacks like spinach and artichoke dip (one of their most popular items), nachos, and an old standby: loaded potato skins!
The “let’s throw in the kitchen sink” mode continues with a loud “Opa!” of flaming kasseri cheese as well as appetizers such as chicken eggrolls and pulled pork sliders.
The rest of the bar food lineup includes a dozen burgers (including turkey and veggie), nearly as many brewhouse sandwiches, and a handful of pitas and roll ups.
And since not much goes better with beer than pizza, selections hot out of a brick oven include the usual suspects (Meat Lovers, Pepperoni Galore, Barbecue Chicken) plus vegetarian and Tuscany White with Alfredo sauce and smoked bacon. And in case you missed it during the appetizer round, the spinach and artichoke dip makes an appearance on a pie topped with chicken breast.
There are also nearly a dozen reasonably priced entrees. Familiar faces like Chicken Monterey, mac and cheese, and ribs are flanked by surprises like salmon baked on a cedar plank and topped with a Jameson whiskey glaze. There’s also the not-to-be-missed lake perch dipped in beer batter or sautéed.
Weekday specials keep traffic steady. There’s half-off pizza Mondays and “All You Can Eat Perch” Tuesdays (for $12.99? Are you kidding me?). There’s also “Rib Rave” Wednesday and “Fajita Frenzy” Thursday.
Can we talk about the beer now? Heading into his fourth year manning the kettles, brewer Jeremy Altier has honed a few staples, plus rotating taps.
My brother-in-law swears by his Shark’s Tooth Bay Golden Ale. I opted for Cady’s Corner Not-So-Sessionable IPA, based on its nod to local history. It got its name after a regular customer told Altier that Baraboo sits where there was once tiny Cady’s Corner Village (established in 1833 and abandoned in 1906).
Altier says he gets “free range” in the fun task of naming the beers. He honors one of his (and my) favorite authors, the late, great Kurt Vonnegut with a Kurt Brownnegut American Brown Ale. Their 21st Anniversary Boo-hemian Pilsner also made the cut.
Like most modern pubs, Great Baraboo offers the usual roundup of craft cocktails, plus a host of martinis. But in yet another ’80s throwback, they have a series of Long Island Iced Tea variants. Did someone just punch up a Romantics song on the jukebox?